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Shame in the Emotional Life of Germanic Heroic Poetry (2020-2021)


Far from being uncomplicated celebrations of individual heroism, Germanic heroic poems are often tragic tales foregrounding the reckless pursuit of personal glory and the burden of shame as the sources of complex societal problems. This article explores how shame and honour are conceptualized and experienced in texts like Beowulf and Hildebrandslied. Concretely, it will analyse how these poems articulate ambivalences about heroic culture and its hypermasculine poetic paragons in light of the lived realities of their Anglo‑Saxon and Carolingian martial elite audiences. Methodologically, this research builds on recent work on the sociology and psychology of honour and shame and its negative societal and individual effects. This article aims to clarify the socio‑emotional dynamics of honour and shame on which the heroic ethos is based inside the texts and for their audiences.

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